Sunday, May 21, 2017

Why It's So Hard To Know Whether School Choice Is Working : NPR Ed : NPR

Why It's So Hard To Know Whether School Choice Is Working : NPR Ed : NPR:

Why It's So Hard To Know Whether School Choice Is Working


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been a passionate proponent of expanding school choice, including private school vouchers and charter schools, and she has the clear backing of President Trump. But does the research justify her enthusiasm?
Experts say one single, overarching issue bedevils their efforts to study the impact of school choice programs. That is: It's hard to disentangle the performance of a school from the selection of its students.
Students are never randomly assigned to a school. A school's population is always affected by local demographics. With schools of choice, by definition, parents and students are making a decision to attend that school, so their enrollment is even less random.
Even when researchers carefully match students at different schools based on demographics, it's possible that families that are more organized and more invested in education are also more likely to seek out charters and voucher programs. Or, selection bias can also work the other way: The students who struggle in traditional public schools may be more likely to seek alternatives.


Further complicating matters is this: By law, most charter schools must have open enrollment, using a lottery if they have more applicants than spots. However, charters, and private schools, have sometimes been accused of using strict discipline rules or other measures to filter out underperforming or otherwise undesirable students.
The admissions policies of voucher-accepting private schools can also vary widely, depending on school policy and state law. Some must have open enrollment. Others retain the right to select students based on religion, academic achievement, artistic talent, conduct, or other factors.
And, no matter where you look, both private schools and charters tend to enroll fewer students with disabilities compared with public schools, a practice known as "creaming."
So, with the huge caveat that it's difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison, where Why It's So Hard To Know Whether School Choice Is Working : NPR Ed : NPR:
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